Giants aren’t apologizing for wild NFL playoff scenario

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Blake Martinez saw his head coach get fired in December 2018 and played in two meaningless games.

What happened to the Packers then is what normally happens to six-win teams in the NFL. This is not.

If Martinez’s Giants beat the Cowboys on Sunday to get to six wins, they have a chance to become the first-ever 10-loss playoff team, win a division title and host a wild-card game.

In any other division, the Giants would be at least five games out of first place and playing out the stretch. But the NFC East and No. 4 seed in the playoffs — deserved or not — goes to Washington with a win over the Eagles, or to the Giants-Cowboys winner if Washington loses.

“I don’t think the record is the biggest thing to look at,” Martinez said. “I think you look at a team as how they progressed throughout the season, their style of play. Once you get in the playoffs, it really becomes 0-0. You can be a team that’s 16-0, lose the first game and all of a sudden you are out. You could be a team that’s 6-10 and win all the way through. Once you are in that position, the best team wins.”

The Giants boarded a train Sunday night in Baltimore with their fate all but sealed by a 27-13 loss to the Ravens. By the time the train stopped, they were granted a reprieve because Washington and Philadelphia both lost. If either team had won, the Giants would’ve been eliminated.

“We had the games streaming in the background and had a little conference room in the front car that I was in,” coach Joe Judge said. “Me and [coordinator] Pat Graham went through the defensive tape together and we were checking scores throughout the league. That’s normal custom.”

Players followed the scores on phone apps but couldn’t high-five in celebration because of COVID-19 social distancing trackers. When the Giants arrived back at team headquarters, Judge called a meeting in the practice bubble to address the playoff scenarios.

“Thinking you’re going to be eliminated to having an opportunity,” center Nick Gates said, “it was a good feeling even though we would’ve rather won the game and given ourselves a better opportunity.”

No matter which team goes to the playoffs, the NFC East winner will be the third playoff team ever with a losing record.

“We’re going to keep our focus on Dallas. It’s the only thing we can control,” Judge said. “We’re not focused on the playoffs. It’s a hypothetical game. At the same time, it’s human nature that they are very conscious of what’s going on around the league and it would be naïve or ignorant to pretend they are not paying attention.”

The Giants are in this position because of a four-game winning streak at midseason and a little luck: The Cowboys have started four different quarterbacks and Washington could start its fourth (Taylor Heinecke) this week. The last playoff team to use four different starting quarterbacks was the 2015 Texans, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“Things panned out the way they did,” Martinez said. “Obviously, we have the opportunities ahead of us. I think that’s the biggest thing, finishing the season off. Doing whatever we can to take advantage of what’s presented to us.”

After losing three straight against a step up in competition, the Giants can show progress by simply snapping a seven-game losing streak against the evenly matched Cowboys and letting the chips fall where they may four hours later when the pressure is on Washington at kickoff in prime time.

“You want every game you ever play to be relevant,” Judge said. “The opportunity that’s really sitting in front of us that we have to take advantage of is to play a division rival and play the last game of the season with our best football. How you improve collectively throughout the year is the ultimate measure of what you are trying to do. I’ve never talked about a record as being a goal in any situation I’ve been in.”

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